Quantity decisions


This vendor’s turf consists of the markets dotting downtown Yangon, where household purchasers still visit for daily necessities. The combined product/service he sells bridges the gap between wholesalers and retailers. With his tools in tow, he wanders markets offering to cut more manageably sized rolls of plastic wrap off of his formidable “industrial-sized” roll. He sells these smaller rolls to vendors who use the wrap to repackage wholesale-purchased goods for resale to household consumers (or for them to resell the rolls themselves to household customers). His carry consists of:

1) one industrial-sized spool of plastic wrap (what Americans might call “Saran wrap”)

2) one spool upon which to mount the industrial-sized plastic wrap spool

3) one spool with a spike in the middle, around which may be wrapped unfurled plastic wrap

4) one scale

5) several dozen rubber bands

6) a rice bag (now repurposed as his seating) in which to carry it all


As for his method, it consists of placing the larger spool on his left side, mounting the industrial-sized spool of plastic wrap up it, “threading” the plastic wrap around the spike of the smaller spool (placed on his right), and then smacking the smaller spool continually, causing it to spin and create a smaller roll of plastic wrap out of the industrial-sized wrap. As the smaller spool grows in size, he switches from smacks to a different move, spinning his spools almost as one could imagine a DJ “scratching” records on a turntable. These smaller wraps of plastic are then cut, tied off with rubber bands, weighed, paid for by the vendors, and eventually used to repackage bulk-purchased/wholesale-bought goods into more consumer-appropriate servings/quantities (such as the bars of yellow soap pictured below). I’m interested in the process of how a retail vendor decides what a fair price is for a given amount of a good – as in, why three bars of soap? What sort of research went into deciding not to package by pairs or by fours?


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